The Browns' enigmatic wide receiver was suspended Saturday for missing a team walk-through and will miss the finale in Baltimore. Gordon, who led the NFL in yards receiving last season, served a 10-game suspension for repeated drug violations earlier this year.
A person familiar with the situation said Gordon was suspended for not showing up at a walk-through in Berea before the team flew to Baltimore. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the team has not disclosed the reason for Gordon's punishment.
Gordon's absence wasn't the only issue for the Browns.
Rookie quarterback Johnny Manziel was late for medical treatment on his injured hamstring, the person said. The Browns typically fine any player who is tardy for meetings or treatment on injuries. Manziel was placed on injured reserve this week after making two starts. The former Heisman Trophy winner is with the team for the season's final game.
Earlier this week, Manziel acknowledged he should have worked harder during his first NFL season.
"I'm not the Johnny Manziel that came in here a year ago," he said. "It's been a year of growing up for me. This is a job for me now. I have to take this a lot more seriously than maybe I did at first still going home and doing whatever I was doing in the off-season."
The Browns issued a statement about Gordon's suspension, but did not mention Manziel, whose unapologetic stance about his off-season partying raised questions about his commitment. Manziel said this week he wants to be "the guy" for the Browns, who traded up in the first round to select him in May's draft.
Manziel didn't show much on the field during his brief playing time, and the Browns have to wonder if he can stabilize a problematic position.
The Browns (7-8), who were contending for a playoff spot before losing four straight, will start rookie quarterback Connor Shaw on Sunday against the Ravens. Shaw was elevated from the practice squad Saturday. He will be Cleveland's 22nd starting quarterback since 1999.
Gordon's latest misstep has put his future with the Browns in jeopardy.
He amassed 1,646 yards receiving last season despite being suspended for the first two games for violating the league's substance abuse policy. He claimed he failed the drug test for a codeine-laced prescription cough medicine.
Since returning from his league ban this year, Gordon had caught 24 passes for 303 yards. But he also ran the wrong pass routes for former starter Brian Hoyer, who was benched in favour of Manziel. Coach Mike Pettine said Gordon needed to work harder on some plays, and the former Pro Bowler was less accessible to the media.
When he returned from his suspension earlier this season, the 23-year-old Gordon talked about wanting to make things up to the teammates who stood by him. He caught eight passes for 120 yards on Nov. 23 in his first game back against Atlanta and followed that up with seven catches for 75 yards in a loss at Buffalo.
But Gordon, whose drug suspension this year was for marijuana, has caught just nine passes in the past three games, and he has no touchdowns after scoring nine last season.
After he returned last month, Gordon said he was committed to helping the Browns win.
"I just want to control what I can control, and that's playing my hardest and working my hardest, 16 weeks next season and these last six games this season, however long I'm in Cleveland," he said. "That's just what I want to do."
He hasn't lived up to his promise.
And now the Browns may have reached a breaking point with him. They provided support for Gordon during his suspension and hoped that he would mature and fulfil his potential.
Because he didn't reach six games, Gordon will not be able to count this season toward free agency. He won't be eligible for unrestricted free agency when his current contract runs out after the 2015 season.
The Browns considered trading Gordon before the deadline last year but didn't want to give up on him for anything less than a first-round draft pick.
The team had filled Gordon's roster spot by promoting receiver Phil Bates from the practice squad. However, the team announced Saturday night that Bates did not travel with the team.
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